rideATAXIA Gainesville 2024 Recap

FARA takes over ‘The Swamp’ for third annual rideATAXIA Gainesville

By Noah Griffith

Fourteen fundraising teams, consisting of 255 total people and 23 people living with FA, gathered at Depot Park on Saturday, March 23, for the third annual rideATAXIA Gainesville. We blew the fundraising goal of $75,000 out of the water with $85,000, but that was just the beginning of the extraordinary day.

I have attended the ride in Gainesville, Florida, all three years, but this one was extra special. The first year rideATAXIA Gainesville held a team spirit award, I was backed by 19 members of my team, Bama Bikers, in its first year of existence. 12 of them — dressed in either Alabama Crimson or Auburn’s Orange and Navy — were attending their first-ever FARA event. We didn’t leave with the award, but we’re already brainstorming ideas for how to take it next year (congrats to Team Josh on the win, you guys are awesome).

More important than any award, though, my team of supporters was immersed in the FA community. My people always hear me talk about FARA and rideATAXIA, but it was amazing to see them get to experience it first-hand. Team Bama Bikers had seven people ride through the beautiful trail of mossy oaks, including me leading the way on my Catrike.

It is one thing to hear — it is another to witness the mission of the FA community in motion. My aunt, Billie Ann Gordon, loved that rideATAXIA gave her family of five a way to physically take a stand against a disease that often leaves them wishing there was more they could do. “As a family member and someone who loves someone with FA, we often feel helpless,” Gordon, who made the trip from Savannah, Georgia, said. “We were able to learn how to better support and love our family member that lives with FA. Being a part of this event helped me to focus in on the important mission and goal of this organization. It stirred me to action and caused me to think about what I can do to help.”

Signaled by the collective shouts of “Cure FA!” before dashing across the start line, everyone at rideATAXIA joins together to support each other. One team claps for another as the top fundraisers are announced because we’re all in the same fight against FA.

My grandfather — Alan Griffith — came from Phenix City, Alabama, to attend rideATAXIA Gainesville for the second year in a row. The lasting imprint the event has left on him has fueled him to be a relentless supporter of me and the entire FA community.

“It’s something that moves the heart to see the FARA community come together the way it does,” Alan Griffith said. “There’s truly a family atmosphere. All this happened because of the passion to cure FA. Meeting some of the people and hearing their stories touches the heart and stirs the emotions. To see the determination and faith of those who have FA gives the rest of us hope for their future.”

In his pre-ride speech, Kyle Bryant talked about how riding his recumbent bike has empowered him as a means of action to take against a ravaging disease. When we, people with FA, are constantly stripped of our abilities, it’s hard to know how to fight back. rideATAXIA gives us pride in taking a stand against a disease that attempts to strip any dignity we might have remaining. My late dad’s best friend and our dear family friend, Billy Holbrook, attended his first rideATAXIA this year, and he brought his wife and three kids along for the five-hour trip from Columbus, Georgia. He said he loved how rideATAXIA is filled with both hope and dignity.

“I loved the way Kyle said that he loves to ride because he loves the feeling of going somewhere with his own power,” Holbrook said. “When he rides, he’s taking back control of this disease he suffers with. Each FA member there worked hard to steal back what FA has taken by turning the pedals and riding the trail. I think this ride is a great way to celebrate the freedom you can have.”

Bryant made sure to reiterate that rideATAXIA is not a race. We’re not trying to beat each other or be faster than those that surround us. Our only opponent is FA, and we are only going to beat it and take back what it has stolen from us if we do it together. Bama Bikers made its debut on March 23 in Gainesville, but we’re just getting started. Without a doubt, we’ll be back for more. Because together, we will cure FA!


RideATAXIA Gainesville was awesome!

By Brian Haffey

I made the drive from South Carolina to Florida in a little under four hours, and although late, was still able to join the meet-and-greet the day before the ride. Immediately, I was reminded of how supportive the FA family is. Once I spoke to Kyle Bryant and found out everyone was sitting outside in the park and not in the restaurant, someone immediately offered me their walker to get across the muddy field to where everyone was. Everyone was so friendly, and I even found out I have a fellow FAer who lives 10 minutes from me. It was so cool!

The weather gave us a run for our money, but by ride time the skies cleared, the sun came out, and it was a perfect day for a bike ride. Kyle started off the festivities on the microphone and led all the riders out of the gate. The 16-mile trail was very nice and wooded with tree covering much of the ride. There was even a close encounter with a horse just walking feet from the path!

As great as the ride was, my favorite part was afterward meeting and exchanging contacts with so many great people. With a disease so rare, I can’t overstate the impact of being able to meet other people with FA and to just be able to relate to each other. Just as powerful was meeting family members who are also so deeply impacted by this disease but support us nonetheless. They make this community truly great.

Thank you all for the inspiration, gratitude, and renewed vigor to keep fighting this disease. Thank you to Kyle and everyone who works hard to keep these events going strong. And huge thank you to anyone who has donated money, time, and resources to our cause! #curefa